Metamorphoses For Freedom

Examining what works in your life and what doesn’t takes courage. It is never easy. It demands that you disassemble structures that you take for granted but which may no longer serve you at the deepest level. These structures can include anything from a habit of munching your way through two pounds of chocolates every time you feel depressed, to holding on to a job that is meaningless, or to a relationship which does not help you grow – all because you are afraid you can’t cope otherwise or do any better for yourself.

Every transformation, every profound and life-enhancing change in some way involves dismemberment. It dissolves every structure that has become inadequate to support an organism. Like the crab which sheds his cramped shell in order to create a larger one, each of us again and again is faced with the prospect of taking apart structures in our own lives which have become too small to contain us. If we don’t consciously rise to the occasion, then life takes them apart for us, and we find ourselves precipitated into crises: It seems as though you have entered a dark tunnel leading to an unknown land. You feel that you don’t know yourself any more, or what you value, or even what is going on. So fundamental is this uncomfortable but necessary process of molting to human physical, emotional and spiritual health – in fact to life itself – that it takes place again and again in our lives whether we like it or not.

Sometimes change comes spontaneously as a result of something that happens to us – the death of a loved one perhaps, or the loss of a job. Sometimes it is consciously chosen out of an awareness that our current life structures no longer serve our values and our goals. Whether the transition required is a big one – choosing to enter or leave a long-term relationship – or a relatively small one – putting yourself through a short spring cleaning diet to detoxify your body – it frequently brings an experience of deep uncertainty and anxiety – the sense that you are in crisis. The transition facing you seems terrifying. You want most to run away as fast as you can. You feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.

The irony in all this is that it is only in facing a crisis and making the transitions it demands that we learn we can cope, and that life can be trusted. We also discover that, given half a chance, the body has an amazing capacity to heal itself, and that there exists deep within us a wisdom and a clarity more profound and powerful than the conscious mind. The Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran wisely wrote, “Your pain is but the breaking of the shell than encloses your understanding.”

For most of us, learning to live through our crises and to make something positive out of them means revising a lot of what we have been taught about ourselves, our minds, even life itself. Most of all, it means looking at the concept of crisis and the experience of change from a whole new point of view. It means learning to transform what may feel like a life-threatening situation into a true passage to power.

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